Wareham toddler death lorry driver cleared of charge
A lorry driver who killed a toddler on a pedestrian crossing when he went through a red light has been cleared of causing death by dangerous driving.
Dean Phoenix, 44, hit three-year-old Jaiden Mangan in Wareham, Dorset, in March 2018.
He told jurors he was trying to manoeuvre around an illegally-parked car and had not seen the lights at the crossing change.
Phoenix admitted a lesser charge of causing death by careless driving.
Jaiden, who would have turned four the next day, was on a balance bike and accompanied by his mother and sister when he was struck at about 08:40 BST in North Street.
Phoenix, of Cibbons Road, Chineham, near Basingstoke, had been working since midnight and admitted he was "frustrated" when he found his Sainsbury's lorry was blocked by a car parked on zig-zag lines.
He told Bournemouth Crown Court a bus coming from the other direction could not get round him, prompting him to pull his lorry forward onto the crossing.
Phoenix said he could not see the traffic lights because of his position in the road, but assumed they were still green as the bus had just gone through.
He said it had been "a mistake" not to check the lights properly and was a decision he made in "a split second".
The jury was shown dashcam footage which the prosecution said showed Phoenix being "sarcastic" by making a clapping gesture towards another motorist in the moments before the crash.
His defence barrister argued the actions of pensioner Graham Booker, who had parked his car on the zig-zag lines, had "contributed to the situation".
Booker, 71, of North Street, Wareham, admitted motoring offences in relation to the crash at a separate hearing in November. He was fined £380 and given a three-year driving ban.
Speaking after the verdict, Dorset Police said Booker had played a "massive part" in the tragedy, while Phoenix should have taken extra care.
Insp Joe Pardey said: "A few simple checks could have and should have avoided this death."
Phoenix will be sentenced on Friday.